Type of Document Thesis Author Weston, Marna Rinaldo Author's Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-07182005-134930 Title The Letter from Leon County Jail: Patricia Stephens Due and the Tallahassee, Florida Civil Rights Movement Degree Master of Science Department Communication, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Marilyn J. Young Committee Chair Danielle R. Wiese Committee Co-Chair Felecia Jordan-Jackson Committee Member Keywords
- The Pain and the Promise
- Glenda Rabby
- Patricia Stephens Due
- Tallahassee CORE
- Tallahassee Civil Rights Movement
- The Civil Rights Movement
- African-American History
- African-American Rhetoric
- The Siege of Tallahassee
- The Black Man and the Promise of America
- Freedom Ride
- Tallahassee Civil Rights Movements
- Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of
- The Letter from Leon County Jail
Date of Defense 2005-06-30 Availability unrestricted AbstractABSTRACT
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) student Patricia Stephens sat down at the Woolworth’s lunch counter on Monroe Street in Tallahassee, Florida on Saturday February 20, 1960 and attempted to order food. When she and a group of eleven others were ordered to leave the counter they refused and were arrested. This thesis examines portions of Stephens’ correspondence during her forty-nine day stay in the Leon County Jail, from March 18 to May 5, 1960.
One letter she wrote strikes particular interest. This ‘Letter from Leon County Jail’ establishes the Civil Rights Movement’s earliest known student refusal to pay a fine, and instead to accept a jail sentence, as a tactic against segregation. The content of the ‘Letter from Leon County Jail’ smuggled out by visiting ministers, was a public letter in the tradition of Martin Luther King’s 1963 ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail.’ According to Haig Bosmajian:
The public letter…has long been a means of persuasion used by reformers
and politicians, writers, and prisoners.
This thesis argues the ‘Letter from Leon County Jail’ outshines King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ as a lasting artifact of rhetorical significance from the Civil Rights era based on its originality, intensity, and defining impact on Tallahassee CORE and the ‘Movement.’ This thesis conducts a critical interpretive analysis to: 1) Describe the program of Tallahassee CORE in 1960, as detailed in Stephens’ Letter from Leon County Jail; 2) Unpack the overarching rhetorical themes in the discourse of Tallahassee CORE, as reflected in Stephens’ correspondence, and, 3) Examine the relationship among these elements to demonstrate the overall persuasive effect of Patricia Stephens and Tallahassee CORE in 1960.
The Tallahassee Civil Right Movement of the 1960’s makes it own claims to heritage among North Florida’s history of resistance to oppression. Characteristics of that history were embodied in Patricia Stephens , a volunteer of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) born in nearby Quincy, Florida. A family friend invited Patricia and sister, Priscilla to attend a summer 1959 interracial, nonviolent, direct action workshop sponsored by Miami CORE. Following this meeting, the sisters started a CORE chapter in Tallahassee, on the FAMU campus.
Tallahassee CORE planned two sit-in actions against segregated downtown variety store lunch counters in February 1960. The first event on Saturday, February 13 was held without major incident. The second event, of February 20 led to eleven immediate arrests, and eight sentences of three hundred dollars fines or sixty days in jail. Ultimately, five students choose to remain in Leon County Jail for the full sentence refusing to pay the fine. Patricia Stephens was one of these five students.
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